Recently, I’ve been entertaining the idea of starting up a farm. For an entrepreneur with a successful on-line business, you might wonder why I’d want to consider tying myself down to a location-dependent business in an industry I know almost nothing about, especially when I said I plan to be leaving Costa Rica later this year. I have two main reasons:
- I believe it’s wise to have multiple sources of income, from multiple types of sources. I love my on-line business. But it’s just one source of income. Creating a new business, in a completely different industry means that I’ll continue making money no matter what happens to my other business, or to the Internet in general. Also, there will always be a need for food.
- For fun! Part of the joy of life is learning new things and continuing to expand your skills. I want to see how farming works, how the business side operates, and determine if it’s a potentially lucrative business. So far, from the numbers I’ve seen, it certainly can be. I also like the idea of being a contributor of healthy, high quality food that is produced in an environmentally conscious way.
About a week ago, I toured one of the largest organic pineapple farms in the world, where I probably ate 2 whole pineapples over the course of an hour (my mouth was pretty sore). I learned some interesting facts about pineapple, such as:
- It takes 16 months for a pineapple to grow to maturity
- Pineapples don’t have a natural growing season (at least not in Costa Rica), so they are sprayed with a gas that helps them all grow at the same time.
- You can grow 22,000 pineapples in an acre
- There are LOTS of things that can go wrong, especially bugs and fungus.
- It costs $16,000/acre to plant, care for, and harvest the pineapple. In 16 months, you should be able to double your money.
- Growing pineapple successfully is a pretty exact science.
Later, I visited a hydroponic lettuce farm (hydroponics is where you use only mineral-rich water and no soil to grow crops). I went with a friend of mine, and we talked directly to the farm owner, who basically shared with us his entire business plan, and how he operates. Here are some things I learned:
- Lettuce takes 5-6 weeks to grow to maturity
- Using this farmer’s methods, you can harvest 20,000 heads of lettuce per hectare (2.5 acres) every week
- Each hectare requires four employees
- There are few problems with bugs and fungus because of how they’re grown
- It costs about $30,000 to build a block (1/4 hectare)
- With a hectare of lettuce, you should be making about $17,000/month after profits (provided you can find distributors for that much lettuce)
Of course, there is so much more to it, and prices will vary based on a number of factors, including where in the world you’re at and who you export to. There is a lot to know, and a lot that can go wrong. But like anything else, it’s something that can be learned.
Thinking of Starting a Business?
I meet many people who dream of starting a on-line business, but they know very little about how to do it, and because they’re afraid of failure, they don’t start. Yes, in any endeavor, there are things that can go wrong. But that’s really okay. You can mitigate a lot of risks by doing research upfront, and that’s definitely a good idea. But no matter how much research you do, you can’t anticipate every problem. There will come a time where you just need to work through issues, think up even better solutions, and just keep moving forward. You only fail if you quit.
As for being tied down, I certainly don’t intend to be. I am not interested in starting a business that will require my constant attention. I will only do this if I can put systems in place to automate as many processes as possible, and hire help to handle the rest. After sufficient research has been done (including a little test run), I may decide that this type of business isn’t for me after all. And that’s okay, too. It will have been fun to learn, and I will have even more experience to apply to whatever I take on next. Either way, I win.
If you’re interested in starting a business, don’t let fear hold you back. Just take the first step, and see where it leads. It could change your life. :)